Who Gets the Dog in the Divorce?

For many people, a pet is another member of the family, but what happens to that pet if a couple decides to get a divorce? The laws in states are changing when it comes to pet custody in a divorce, so it is important to know where your state stands and how to better your chances of getting your pet in a divorce.

New Pet Custody Laws

New pet custody laws in Alaska, Illinois, and California are changing the way that some courts look at pet custody in divorce cases. In these states, the court must take into account the wellbeing of the animal when determining which spouse should keep the pet. In some cases, joint pet custody has been issued when it is in the best interests of the pet to continue to spend time with both spouses after the divorce. This differentiates a pet from other pieces of inanimate and unliving personal property that are distributed during a divorce.

Virginia’s Pet Custody Laws

Unfortunately, Virginia still abides by the majority rule regarding pet custody, which treats the pet like another piece of property that must be equitably divided in the divorce. A pet is identified either as separate or marital property. If one owner brought the pet into the marriage, it is considered separate property and remains with that spouse after the divorce. However, if the pet was acquired during the course of the marriage, it is considered marital property and can therefore be negotiated for or argued over during the distribution of marital assets.

How to Increase Your Chances at Pet Custody

If the pet in question is considered separate property of your spouse, there is little you can do in a Virginia divorce. Your best chance at receiving the pet is to bargain for it with other pieces of marital property in exchange. However, if the pet was acquired during the course of the marriage and therefore marital property, there are steps you can take to help convince the court that your pet belongs with you after the divorce.

The most important thing for your case is documentation. This includes a copy of any bill of sale or adoption papers that have your name on it as well as all veterinary bills and a record of who took your pet to the vet. Receipts for pet food, toys, and other expenditures on your accounts are also helpful to show the court that you are the primary caretaker of the pet, as are witness accounts and affidavits from family, friends, and others who know your relationship with your pet and can testify to the fact that you are the main caretaker of the animal.

Call or Contact Us Today

For more information about pet custody rules or any other matter in your Virginia divorce, call or contact the experienced legal professionals at Select Law Partners today to schedule a free consultation of your case.

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Matt Kurylo

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